The business community and society at large are facing enormous pressures, all of them produced or influenced by human activity. Moreover, these pressures are bringing about permanent changes to the world we live in, and at a speed that far outstrips our ability to see them individually. They are as follows:
- Over-population. Population growth and increased production and consumption are two of the most important factors, and nobody wants to discuss the matter or deal with it. In 1900 there were 1.6 billion inhabitants on the planet and in 1950, there were 2.5 billion; the year 2000 saw the figure rise to 6.5 billion, and the forecast for 2050 is 9 billion inhabitants.
- Wealth. The global middle classes (defined by the OECD as people with an available income of between 10 and 100 dollars per capita/day) will grow by an estimated 150% between 2010 and 2030.
- Urban population. In 2009, for the first time ever, the population located in cities will exceed the population in rural areas, and in 2050 an estimated 75% of the world’s inhabitants will live in urban zones. The resulting cities will require major infrastructure improvements, including construction, water and sanitation, electricity, waste, transport, public health, public safety and security and internet/mobile phone connectivity.
- Energy for fuel. Fossil fuel markets are likely to become more volatile and unpredictable as global energy demand escalates; there will be shifts in geographical trends in consumption; supply and production will face uncertainty and more and more regulatory changes will be introduced to combat climate change.
- Climate change. This is likely to be the global mega-force that will hit all the others most directly. The economic losses stemming from the negative effects of climate change already come to more than 1% of world GDP.
- Water shortage. According to estimates, by 2030 global water demand will outstrip supply by 40%. Businesses are likely to face water shortage, lower water quality, price volatility and corporate reputation challenges.
- A shortage of raw materials. As industrialization in developing economies gathers pace, global demand for raw materials will increase drastically.
- Food security. In the coming decades, the global food-production system will be subject to increasing pressure from mega-forces: e.g. population growth, water shortage and deforestation. In addition, food prices are expected to rise by up to 70% and 90% by 2030.
- Debilitated ecosystems. The diversity and wealth of ecosystems are vital for both humankind and all life forms on the planet. Their deterioration could lead to lower levels of carbon absorption, and is likely to diminish the effectiveness of their benefits for humanity.
Juan Ramon Silva, ACCIONA’s Chief Sustainability Officer